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Another – 12 (END)

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「死者」 (Shisha)
“Stand by oneself”

Arrggh… Another, I love you as a series – but this feeling I have right now isn’t what I was hoping it would be when you ended.

I probably don’t need to tell you not to read this post until you’ve watched the episode, but just in case – don’t read this post until you’ve watched the episode!

And so begins the longest day of the anime season for me, as probably my four favorite Winter series all come to an end. Not only do I have to say sayonara to my companions and friends of the last three months, but summarize my thoughts about them too. And it starts with Another, a series I adore but which ultimately leaves me feeling a little unsatisfied for a few reasons. That’s not to say I didn’t like the last two eps a lot, but I think they strayed too far from the formula that made this series so great and were somewhat tarnished by conventionality. Perhaps Mizushima-sensei wasn’t “over” the Blood-C debacle quite as much as I’d assumed.

Let’s start with the ending itself. In hindsight, there are things in Another that only make sense if Reiko and Mikami-sensei are the same person. But hindsight is, as they say, always 20-20. There was certainly ample evidence that something was “off” with Aunt Reiko – many of them mentioned here. I think of “Why, Rei Why?” and “My poor Reiko too” as very prominent examples – not to mention the headaches, and “Painting is my real job” and now I recall a very odd moment in episode 3 (which in hindsight was a crucial ep) in which Kouichi and his friends are talking to Mikami-sensei and there’s a quick – and otherwise seemingly extraneous – cut to Kouichi in pajamas on the couch, talking to Reiko.

There’s other stuff too, and some of it is pretty out there. I mentioned way back near the beginning that Reiko’s seiyuu was credited as “Sakakibara Naoko”, which I found odd. But it’s also percolated out in this last week (I think Kanon on ASF spotted it first) that Mikami’s seiyuu is credited as Miyamaki Misayo – which with some very minimal jiggering can be changed to “Yomiyama Misaki”. It seems that P.A. Works was trolling us with these seiyuu names, and I suppose it’s likely the “two” characters were actually played by the same actress. But I think it’s very legitimate to ask – could an unspoiled first-time viewer have taken the facts as presented and figured out that Mikami = Reiko? I’m not so sure, myself – I won’t list all the clues that exist, but it’s some pretty vague stuff – the kind of thing no reasonable person would connect unless they knew what they were looking for. I won’t accuse P.A. Works and Mizushima of cheating, but I’m not sure they were playing 100% fair, either. And I’m not sure the mystery wouldn’t have been just as interesting if they’d let us know from the beginning that the two women were the same person, and made the game a lot more fair in the process. There would certainly have been enough clues that the Another wasn’t a student, some of them already covered in prior blog posts, to suggest Mikami-sensei as a candidate.

Let’s set that aside, though, and talk about the episode itself and why I say it strayed too far from the formula. No, there was no “human blender” moment but I do think the last two eps gave themselves over to a lot of gore and “Final Destination” style coincidences. What I loved most about Another for 10 episodes was the character interaction and the subtle, tense and sinister atmosphere it created. It was the anticipation of terrible things happening that made the show exciting more than the events themselves – and when they did happen (once an episode, or sometimes even less) their impact was all the greater as a result of that. It took us three episodes to build to that terrible moment with Sakuragi and the umbrella, and it hit like a kick to the solar plexus – in the last two episodes, that sort of scene was a dime a dozen (was it really only eight students that died? It seemed like twice that many).

There’s also the matter of what I would consider to be gratuitous carnage and gratuitous coincidence. I don’t know about the novel, but was it really necessary for the anime to show the four kids crushed by the chandelier – and then when the one boy escapes, to have him crushed by a falling column? That was almost comical, to be honest – a Mizushima “Blood-C moment” – and it felt beneath the dignity of what Another has been as a series. It also defies explanation in a way that doesn’t thrill me. The students going a bit crazy when Mochizuki let the cat out of the bag might have been overplayed, but it at least makes sense – they were acting in what they saw as self-preservation. But why did all these students die in such laughably bizarre circumstances in the final two episodes? It’s a degree of coincidence that I don’t think is explained by anything we’ve been told about the phenomenon as we know it, and it feels as if Mizushima-sensei threw it all in for effect. Through episode 10, the horror that occurred in the series was what was essential to build the mystery and the impact it created. In the last two eps much of it was superfluous, and it desensitized this viewer in a way I didn’t find welcome. I felt oddly emotionally removed from the events of the finale, after having been completely wrapped up in them for most of the series, and I think this is the reason why.

Of course there was much to be admired in this show, and in the ending, too. I thought the moment when Chibiki arrived with the gorgeously understated “This is not normal.” was beautifully handled, both for impact and for irony. The moment when lightning struck the lodge and the glass shattered was one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful sequences of art in animation I’ve seen in many a season – and that was before the impact became clear. Akazawa’s death was a bit heavy-handed, but the cinematography and art design made up for that. And while it had already become pretty obvious just by process of elimination whose arm that was reaching out from under the rubble as Mei hefted that pick-axe, it was still a very powerful moment, and Kouichi’s pain was intense and difficult to watch. This is the fundamental dilemma of the “solution” – there’s no tangible way to differentiate the Another from a person, and they themselves think they’re alive. In terms of their own actions, the Another has done nothing wrong, the genius of this premise. Could everyone do what Kouichi did, even knowing what he did?

 

Final Impressions:

There’s little doubt in my mind that Another will stand as a great series for me, but it will be as one with serious flaws as well. I can start to list the things that were exceptional here and go on for far longer than I should. It’s P.A. Works, and the series looks fantastic. There are indelible visual moments that stand out for me all throughout the series, right up to the final episode. BGM was excellent, and really found its voice in the finale, where it was a bulwark of restraint and sadness against the visual excesses of gore. I think the show had the most effective sound design since Ghost Hound, another series that used sound brilliantly to create a mood. Sound was almost a character in and of itself, and it did so much to unsettle the viewer – pounding on doors, distant thunder, static… I wish this show had followed Ghost Hound’s example and relied on atmosphere for tension and terror all the way to the end, but that’s a matter I’ve already covered.

Horror is a tough medium for anime, which I think explains why it isn’t attempted more often – well, that and the fact that it doesn’t tend to be a big money-maker. The issue here is that it feels like Another was a mystery for ten episodes, and a horror for the final two. I liked it better as a a mystery, but that’s me. The core relationship in the series was the best one, as some of my favorite moments simply involved Kouichi and Mei interacting as two kids on the outside of the social infrastructure of Yomi North, taking comfort in each other’s presence as they shyly began to explore stronger feelings. Kouichi’s ballroom-dance dream sequence was possibly the best scene in an anime this season, for it’s visual brilliance and stylishness and humor, but also for how it both contrasted with the “reality” of the series and fit perfectly with it. I could have done with even more Kouichi-Mei development than we got, but what we got was enough to make them one of the best anime couples in quite some time.

I won’t argue that Another is under any obligation to explain everything that happens inside its boundaries. I like the fact that the true nature of the phenomenon is still left as a bit of a mystery, but I could have done with a little more background on just why events seemed to be conspiring to kill as many students as possible in increasingly unlikely ways at the end. I would’ve also liked a little more explanation about Mei’s odd ability to “see” using a false eye, which feels a bit like a dramatic crutch to lead us (and the characters) to the identity of the Another, and whether there are any deeper significance to all the mysticism surrounding the dolls.

At its heart, though, I think the central conceit of Another is pretty ingenious. It’s something of a tale of good intentions gone wrong – it seems so noble, to proclaim that a person who has died tragically isn’t really dead, but their spirit lives on. And this is a supernatural horror that doesn’t give is an easy target to focus on – our “villain” isn’t really the Another, who isn’t actually doing anything wrong. In a sense, they’re like any other person – but one carrying a terrible disease (death) of which they’re asymptomatic. Imagine someone carried such a deadly illness, but was otherwise fine and had no desire to hurt anyone. Would it be so easy to just kill that person, never mind if it were a member of your own family? You might think of putting them in isolation, and searching for a cure – but isolation doesn’t help, the disease spreads as long as they’re alive.

There’s no “evil” in this story – not until the truth comes out, and people start behaving in an evil manner towards each other (John Saul comes home to roost, after all). I guess I think of the deaths as nature’s attempt to restore balance when confronted by something outside itself – something quite literally “supernatural”. Nature may abhor a vacuum but it also abhors something that violates its laws, like a dead person among the living. It tries to correct for this by killing someone, but that doesn’t fix the problem – the dead person is still in the living world, so it kills again, and again, and until the imbalance is corrected it won’t stop. This is the dilemma Mei faces – she has no idea that eliminating the carrier will stop the flow of the disease. She has no desire to crush the feelings of the boy she’s come to consider the person closest to her in the world, now that her dear cousin (in reality, twin) has died. So she suffers in silence with her knowledge, until Matsunaga’s tape surfaces – and then resolves, too late, to try and fix the situation herself.

I may wish the ending had been handled differently, but I still rank the series as a resounding success. It made me feel deeply, it unsettled me, it made me laugh, it made me think and it scared the hell out of me. The mystery was engaging and interesting and never boring, even if the ultimate resolution wasn’t completely satisfying. The production values were off the charts. And most importantly, Another recognized that no mystery or horror scenario can succeed if it doesn’t build a connection to the characters, and it did the hard work and heavy lifting to turn Kouichi, Mei, Mochizuki, Teshi and Akazawa – and even Chibiki and Aunt Reiko – into real and complex personalities that we could identify with and care about. That gave the finale arc a power and emotional resonance whose impact not even the missteps of Mizushima-sensei could dull. It wasn’t perfect, but it was exceptional, and Another definitely goes down as the best example of the mystery and suspense genres that anime has produced for quite a while.

March 26, 2012 at 2:53 pm
233 comments »
  • March 27, 2012 at 10:56 amsaviourshadow

    now is jus wait for the live action movie huh? sure is going to be a long wait…..

  • March 27, 2012 at 11:07 amGen

    Looks like there’ll be another “Another” series soon. I stumbled on this article here.

    Also, I heard that there’s an extra episode coming out. Did they actually announce it?

    • March 28, 2012 at 10:12 amYoyo

      Yh there will be an OVA which would be ep 0 and will be about mei and her sister.

  • March 27, 2012 at 12:18 pmDaiakuma

    And to think that…one of those who died this year might be the Another some time later.

    Putting many things aside, what happened to everyone ‘aiming to kill’ Mei (and sometime Kouichi) during the bloodbath? Since Kouichi got his lung attack and Mei probably drag him to everyone. Did the death of the Another stops everything that was related to the Another’s event?

    • March 27, 2012 at 7:47 pmpuzzzled

      the rampage stopped because it was like they were under a spell of a horrible nightmare only that it was real and when the another died its like they woke up and snapped out of it. The students arent normally psycho killers so naturally they went on with their lives…

  • March 27, 2012 at 3:09 pmsantino

    I just noticed something really odd and maybe the other manga readers also noticed this.

    In the anime aunt Reiko ties her hair up and wears glasses at home and at school she takes off her glasses and doesn’t tie her hair up but in the manga it is just the opposite of it. In the manga she ties her hair up and puts on glassesa at school and doesn’t wear glasses at home and doesn’t tie her hair up at home.

    How funny.

  • March 27, 2012 at 5:08 pmmac65

    It’s uncanny how much this episode reminded me of prom night – Oh what a night!

    Excellent! A wonderful mystery/horror Anime. I especially liked the friendship/romance
    that developed between Kouichi and Mei. It had an ending that fit well (I think) with the
    story – not something completely from left field.

    There were, as many have noted, many questions unanswered (leaving for the possibility of
    future seasons), but, the story was not to explain everything, but simply find the Another
    and end the calamity.

  • March 27, 2012 at 6:29 pmkishagi

    so it seems like almost no one could’ve guessed that reiko = mikami sensei, due to lack of info. but there is also a huge lack of common sense that was appeared to be overlooked whan that decision was made. If you know theres a horrible fatal curse affecting a school, why the hell would you accept aa Job as an assistant teacher at that school, (even worse: in the class that is affected the most)?

    Also IMHO
    I believe that if Akazawa survived, abuit more drama would have been restored to theshow. To see Akazawa have a meltdown after seeing how bad the situation became and seeing her blame herself for being an utter failureas heard of counter measures.

  • March 27, 2012 at 10:32 pmtaiakun

    This might have already been mentioned before, but with all the comments that’s been posted it’ll probably be impossible to find…

    Anyway…there is one more scene which foreshadowed that Mikami was the Another. Recall when Mei, Koichi and Chibiki were looking at the roster of previous years, and someone made the comment about how unlucky Mikami was at having to return to be the assistant teacher of Class 3. I felt back then that maybe she had something to do with it, but did not consider it as I always thought that the ‘Another’ was a student. Very well written story, even if the ending was somewhat crazy…

  • March 28, 2012 at 2:28 amewok40k

    can someone give me the list of survivors of the class? or only Mei and Kouichi survived?

    • March 28, 2012 at 6:39 amAex

      Mochizuki, Teshigawara, and a couple nameless NPCs too, but everyone that went on the trip died(unless Kazami made it but I don’t think he did). So ya, from the ED we got Mei, Kouichi, Mochi, and Teshi.

      • March 28, 2012 at 6:40 amAex

        **everyone else that went on the trip died.

  • March 28, 2012 at 2:40 amc2710

    too many pretty girls died in the making of this series

    utterly upset

  • March 28, 2012 at 4:01 amLitho

    It’s no Ghost Hound, for sure.

    Passable, but could’ve been so much better.

  • March 28, 2012 at 7:43 amNamika

    I really with that the last episode was managed differently, because I’m left with this nasty feeling of being left out or something. Except for Akazawa’s death, that was definitely one of the most beautiful scenes I ever noted. Not even going in the art/animation’s direction, because thin IS PA Works, but the music…. it hit the spot. It fit PERFECTLY. Not I feel like re-watching that scene over and over *~*

    It’s the first time I’m on this blog and I wanted to say that your review is written really well. Interesting to read and very well-spoken ^^

    • March 28, 2012 at 9:49 amGuardian Enzo

      Thank you! That scene is truly beautiful, isn’t it? By far the best in the finale, I think.

  • March 28, 2012 at 8:00 amVincent

    I was actually still feeling very uneasy until the ending credits rolled. There were like minor hints the curse has not been stopped (characters kept asking each other if it’s finally over). I was half expecting a TROLOLOLOL moment with someone getting killed at the final scene followed by the ending credits.

  • March 28, 2012 at 9:42 amPhil-sama

    And yet Mei remains as mysterious as ever(and suspicious?)…or is it just me?

    Anyway, not really surprised about who the Another turned out to be. (Yes, I’m looking at the novel/manga guys who commented here). Sure they’re saved at the end but…is there really no definite way to stop the curse?

  • March 28, 2012 at 12:36 pmWilfriback

    http://randomc.net/image/Another/Another%20-%2012%20-%20Large%2019.jpg

    The house was made of supernatural and them broke to pieces. Dammit Kamijou Touma!!

    It seems one of the victims’ little brother killed Reiko as revenge.

  • March 28, 2012 at 3:18 pmBluebreaker

    Doesn’t the murderer of Reiko looks very similar to Kouichi?

    • March 28, 2012 at 3:29 pmFaint Smile

      Yeah, I also noticed that too..

      • March 28, 2012 at 4:47 pmKaus

        ^ this.

        He was there 1.5 years ago. The same time period Reiko died.

      • March 28, 2012 at 10:28 pmR

        @Kaus:
        He was there for her funeral. He wasn’t there until after she had died.

  • March 28, 2012 at 9:23 pmMatroid

    Best thriller of the season. The manga is still running. So there is still hope for future anime production. I’m looking forward to it.

  • March 28, 2012 at 10:16 pmViqluant

    the reason why I think the mystery happened in the first place is that Yomiyama Misaki is supposingly died but the member of the class treat as if he still exist, like what we know. So, the trick is here! Due to the member of the class treat him as an existing member, they were somewhat cursed, it’s like dead people should not exist anymore; people will treat dead person as some who had passed away rather than they still exist. Thus, by doing so, they have created something-like like a supernatural phenomenon. That phenomenon like what Chibiki explained, makes them near to Yomi (hell) itself. Therefore, the event will keep on repeating, like a karma. The series ended without telling the audience how to stop it but only how to prevent it. In the end, it’s something like a lesson taught by the author. The author want us to know when we realize the culprit is among us, what will we do. Will we murder them for our survivor just to found out who is the culprit or will we discuss, plan then only thought of the way? The decision will makes it clear on our true nature and that we must not follow the footsteps of the Class 3-3 students actions.

  • March 29, 2012 at 1:34 pmGhostalker

    It took the professor the 12th and final episode to figure out something is not normal —- after hearing him said those magic words I really laugh in amusement and disbelief on how everything is falling down.

    I guess in the end the fault is within me for expecting to much from the series, personal expectations that the series failed to deliver.

  • March 29, 2012 at 2:42 pmAnnmys

    So it seems my question of whether Reiko and Mikami-sensei were the same person was answered. But what still bugs me is at what point I thought the show said they were the same in the earlier episodes. I guess I’ll have to re-watch the series from the beginning to find that clue.

    On a side note:
    Poor Izumi. Such a beautiful, yet tragic death. She may have had me cheering for her in the background, but her actions the last two episodes just made me go, “YOU CRAZY”.

  • March 29, 2012 at 8:20 pmBlakOut

    Wait another thing can anyone answer this. Misaki said that she lost her eye when she was 4, but that other girl said she knew Misaki in elementary and she still had her eye. Im thinking the calamity didnt start in April and maybe it will be explained in the OVA. Misaki is suspect imo shes keeping secrets.

    • March 30, 2012 at 11:10 amAshaman

      @BlakOut That girl had mistaken Misaki Mei for her twin Misaki.

  • March 30, 2012 at 7:21 amCroos

    >..<

  • April 1, 2012 at 11:16 pmjigen7

    how come if reiko is the another and because the faculty has no extra desk, then when the main teacher killed himself the happenings should stop right because now the faculty will have a extra desk for reiko

  • April 2, 2012 at 2:46 pmAshen

    “I may wish the ending had been handled differently, but I still rank the series as a resounding success. It made me feel deeply, it unsettled me, it made me laugh, it made me think and it scared the hell out of me. The mystery was engaging and interesting and never boring, even if the ultimate resolution wasn’t completely satisfying. The production values were off the charts. And most importantly, Another recognized that no mystery or horror scenario can succeed if it doesn’t build a connection to the characters.”

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Enzo. While I think the last 2 episodes could’ve been handled differently, and the finale ultimately left me with a few issues, overall I’m very happy I stuck with Another ’til the very end.

    One chilling detail of the finale that stuck with me was this:
    Show Spoiler ▼

    Now I’m even more excited for the OVA. I hope this series gets a proper DVD release, as I’d love to own it. Already planning a re-watch marathon to see if I can indeed “spot the fake” by way of the hints dropped throughout.

    • April 3, 2012 at 10:39 pmpuzzzled

      theres a really high chance nekogrrl_77 got it right for the anime! The crazy killer is none other then Akazawa’s older cousin who died 1.5 years ago around the same time as reiko and he happened to look alot like the main character explaining why Akazawa liked the main character almost at first sight… since she and her cousin were supposed to be really close like siblings but since main is not related to her even more win for her they could get hitched

      • April 3, 2012 at 10:42 pmpuzzzled

        oops and of course he was probably in reikos class and teh curse made him go bonkers… 3C or watever

  • April 6, 2012 at 10:01 pmNaYa

    The solution reminded me of Ring. There’s no real way to completely lift the curse, but you can escape from falling victim to it by following the rules victimizing someone else and passing on the solution to the next victims. A lot of Japanese stories end that way.
    They should make Mei the school adviser and pick out the dead every year to keep it from ever happening again. Maybe then the dead will feel uninvited and won’t join the class of 3-3 as Another any more.

  • April 8, 2012 at 4:14 amdivinelight

    It’s a very incredible moments to spend with Another in this season.
    Yet I still shocked to see Akazawa’s death can’t be avoided… even though I suspected that she had already died 1year and half ago on the river bank.

    This is truly the best horror/mistery I ever watch.

  • May 30, 2012 at 2:15 pmItachizame

    Wonders if Guardian Enzo is gonna blog the Ova. it came out a few days ago and i just seen it so. im not gonna say anything about it.

  • July 23, 2012 at 4:09 amSaturo

    I loved this anime, watched all episodes on one evening.
    I just wished for a last romantic scene between Mei and Koichi but I guess things like that don’t belong into animes of this genre.

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